by High Country Gardens

Mixed Ice Plant (Delosperma)
Ice Plant and other low-growing succulents make a good buffer when firescaping.

Creating Non-Burn Zones Around Your Home: Learn Which Plants Burn Easily and Which Are Fire Resistant Plants

The Southwest seems to have five seasons now: spring, summer, fall, winter and unfortunately the fifth is coming up: fire season. For those of us who live in the mountains or foothills of not only the Southwest but throughout the western US, periodic and prolonged droughts have changed our lifestyle. It now requires a keen eye to keeping property trimmed and cleared.

Firescaping is a relatively new term in the field of landscaping. It means creating non-burn zones around your home. If a wildfire is coming through, it'll take what's in its path—including houses—unless there is no path for the fire to follow. The basic idea of firescaping is: the closer to your home, the less vegetation you want.

Zauschneria/Hummingbird Trumpet
Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) is a low-growing perennial useful in firescaping.

Ideally, there are three defensible zones that make up the principles of firescaping:

Zone One involves clearing a 30-foot area surrounding a house. Concrete or brick patios in this area are ideal as well as low growing perennials, annuals, groundcovers and irrigated lawns. If trees are to be planted in this first zone to provide shade, they need to be deciduous, as deciduous trees have higher moisture content in their leaves and don't contain flammable oils. Do not plant evergreen trees and shrubs such as pines, junipers and cedars. And it's best to cut down established evergreens close to the house. especially if there are branches overhanging the roof. Many broadleaf evergreens (Manzanita) and especially conifers (plants with needle-like leaves) are full of highly flammable oils that burst into flame with extreme heat. Also be sure to remove branches within 15 feet of chimneys and stovepipes.